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Prisoners do ‘Time’ Learning about Plants

21 December 2007

Prisoners are not the usual target audience of botanic gardens.  However an innovative project in Italy is demonstrating that through training, female inmates can turn their lives around and gain new careers in horticulture while also contributing to the conservation of local flora. 

Run by Pro-Nature Nursery (Associazone per i vivai Pro-Natura) with the collaboration of Cascina Rosa Botanic Garden, Milan and the University of Milan (Department of Vegetable Production), the project provides an opportunity for six inmates, at any one time, to participate in the training.  Many of the inmates have low levels of education and several are drug addicts with corresponding health conditions, making this project a huge challenge.

Inmates are offered a basic biology, botany and agronomy course.  They also spend two to three afternoons per week in a small greenhouse, located in an internal courtyard of the prison, sowing and cultivating endangered species from the Lombardy region.  When the plants are ready they are offered to local government institutions such as natural parks or reserves, for reintroduction and reforestation purposes. 

Pro-Nature Nursery also works outside the prison, in the outskirts of Milan, where volunteers manage a nursery where 170 species of local flora are propagated and cultivated from seed collected in natural areas of the Lombardy region. Prisoners and disabled persons are also involved in the horticultural practices of this nursery.

If other gardens are carrying out similar projects and would like to share their experiences or you would like more information on this project, please contact Mara Sugni at the following email address:


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